Better Decisions

Better Decisions: Direct farm marketing proves a hit with consumers

The province’s 750 on-farm markets draw 8,000,000 customers a year, the bulk of them pleased with what they find


With the recent interest by consumers and the media in knowing ‘where their food comes from,’ the Ontario Farm Fresh Marketing Association (OFFMA) has just released its 2008-09 On-Farm Marketing In Ontario Report with some encouraging results. 

The Ontario Farm Fresh Marketing Association (OFFMA) represents over 150 members who sell directly from the farm via on-farm stores, farm gate and pick-your-own operations. Many have ventured into school tours and on-farm entertainment known as agri-tourism.

Better Decisions: Running your farm business from the ground up

Whether you view your business from a strategic point of view or from ground level, planning from both levels will promote good farm management practices


For those of you who have had a window seat on a commercial aircraft on a clear day, the vastness of the countryside is both striking and thought-provoking. On a recent trip
I had such an opportunity and it made me realize the importance of agriculture and the miles of productive farmland across this nation.

Better Decisions: Don’t overlook the importance of planning in your farm business

Knowing where you are going and what you hope to achieve will give your business an edge when it comes to responding to opportunities


Have you ever said to yourself, I should have planned that better? This statement is common to everyone. We often head right into action without a plan, which results in extra work or lost efficiencies. Planning is hard work and often one of the most neglected parts of a farm business.

Kenneth Thomas, an extension economist in farm management at the University of Minnesota from 1959 to 1992, saw many changes in farm production while business planning principles remained the same. He authored many reports and documents on the importance of good planning for success on the farm.

Better Decisions: The start of a new year is the time to take stock

Instead of making resolutions, why not take a few hours to evaluate your business, so that you can have room for improvements in the coming 12 months


I am not one for New Year’s resolutions. Rather, when I open
a new calendar and look at the year ahead, my planning includes taking stock of the year gone by. This is a good practice for everyone, no matter what business you are in.

So take a few hours this winter and conduct an informal evaluation of your farm business in order to make room for improvements over the next 12 months. Here are some questions and suggestions to help you take stock.

Better Decisions: Winter is the time to seize some learning opportunities

This is the season to invest some time and energy in yourself and in the business side of the operation


Agriculture is a seasonal business with spring, summer and fall being very busy times for farmers. Now that winter is upon us, it’s time to invest the same amount of time and energy on the business side of your operation. This is when you should plan what learning opportunities you will invest in over the winter months. 

Better Decisions: What business skills does the farmer need to succeed?

Many of the skills or tools a farmer needs are the same as a business owner in an industrial park, among them an effective marketing plan


This past September, while working at the Outdoor Farm Show in Woodstock, I was faced with reality by what I saw upon entering the grounds. There, against a beautiful September sky, was a towering piece of farm equipment with a six-figure price tag.
I found this to be a wake-up call about the financial reality of farming in today’s highly technological and competitive marketplace. Besides the capital investment in land and buildings, the investment in machinery on the scale I saw says volumes about the financial and business management skills required by today’s farmer. 

Better Decisions: Will you sell it if you sow it?

Only by making continual efforts to understand your buyer’s needs or what is affecting the marketplace can you keep ahead of the curve in today’s fast-changing business world


Finding out consumer wants and needs are crucial, whether you are a multinational company producing consumer goods or a farmer serving the agri-food sector.
Billions of dollars are spent annually to find out how to market goods and services effectively to consumers, and market research firms seek out consumer input through informal observation as well as comprehensive surveys and focus groups. 

Better Decisions: Communicate, communicate, communicate – the key to good management


Managing people in today’s hectic world of farming can sometimes be a frustrating experience.

On more than one occasion, I have had producers ask me how they should deal with employees who don’t listen and continually fail to follow instructions.

One of the first approaches I take in dealing with their questions is to ask whether or not they have explained themselves so that their workers understand exactly what they are being asked to perform.

Better Decisions: Good time management can help your business- and your health

Taking care of the time stealers and developing your time management skills are key to a successful farming operation and a happy family life


How often have you heard the phrase, “When you need a job done, get a busy man?”   
In today’s hectic world of agribusiness, producers and farm managers need to develop time management skills in order to become successful. Additional benefits of good time management are improved physical and emotional health, productivity and, perhaps most importantly, a happy family life.